Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
The coalition government’s decision to increase the budget of the Department for International Development (DFID) has been presented as a progressive counterpoint to the massive cuts in other government departments. The Tories have praised much of DfID’s work under New Labour and have committed to increase the amount of aid given, saying it is “motivated by a shared determination to erode the terrible inequalities of opportunity that we see around the world today.”
But many of the so-called beneficiaries of British aid do not see it as progressive at all, arguing that it is based on the same free market principles as the rest of the coalition’s policies and is doing more harm than good.
Between 2003 and 2008, India received £1 billion of British aid. At the beginning of 2009 DfID released its new country strategy for India, which commits to giving another £850 million until 2011, making it DFID’s largest bilateral programme. India is the world’s fourth largest economy, based on purchasing power, and has qualified as a middle-income country since 2007. India is now also an aid donor in its own right.
In a book and DVD of short films and transcribed interviews by Richard Whittell and Eshwarappa M, just published by Corporate Watch, people affected by British aid argue that behind the pictures of smiling children and the rhetoric of development lies a different reality that seldom makes the news headlines. They say that, through DFID projects and programmes, their government, land, schools and public services are being taken away from them. As one of the interviewees puts it, “In India, DfID … [is] behind the push to completely dismantle public systems of health, education, food security, water, electricity, and throw our people completely to the mercy of markets controlled by big capital.” According to another interviewee, it is “another agenda to colonise us.”
In over 10 lengthy interviews and five short films, people who have suffered from and fought against DfID’s aid programmes in India – including teachers, farmers, academics, activists, engineers and journalists – explain why they have resisted or rejected this ‘dodgy development’ and why it is important that people in Britain do the same.
“They tie you up and burgle your house through the back door,” says one of the interviewees, Madhuri Krishnaswammy. “And then arrive at the front door with much fanfare to provide a few sops as ‘relief’!”
“Assistance doesn’t mean purchasing my culture,” says another interviewee, Abani Baral. “Assistance doesn’t mean encroaching upon my rights or the administration. This is what DfID is doing and this is what we are opposed to.”
Professor Anil Sadgopal makes an appeal to the British public and asks, “Would you allow this to be done in your country by the Indian government? If your answer is no, then please use all your resources … to stop DFID.”
As well as the UK, the book and DVD will be distributed in India and other countries that receive British aid, such as Ghana and Iraq, to people similarly affected by it. Neither the films makers nor the publishers have received any funding for the project, and will make no profit from it.
“We travelled across India, independently and without funding,” says Richard Whittell and Eshwarappa M, who conducted the interviews and made the films. “We wanted to speak to people affected by British aid. It soon became clear that there was a substantial number of people whose experiences of this aid contrasted sharply with the DFID’s publicity, and it is these critical views that are presented in these short films and interviews.”
The UK International Development parliamentary committee has recently announced an inquiry into the future of DFID’s programme in India. A memorandum based on the work has been submitted to the committee.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun